HRC Foundation to Launch Program to Explore Workplace Policies of Jewish Non-Profit Organizations

by HRC Staff

Lead grant from Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation funds expansion of workplace equality advocacy.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced today that it will begin an effort to investigate the existing workplace policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees at Jewish non-profit organizations. The work, an expansion of HRC's workplace equality project, is supported by a generous lead grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and supporting grants from The Morningstar Foundation, Stuart S. Kurlander-a leader in several non-profit Jewish and Jewish LGBT community organizations-and an anonymous donor.

"Together, HRC and our partners share a vision of a work environment that provides every employee with the opportunity to achieve their full potential - in policy and in practice," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. "This collaborative partnership will expand the conversation about equality for LGBT people to the communities these organizations serve and to religious communities more broadly about their role in making fairness and equality a reality for all."

"The continued marginalization of LGBT Jews in some quarters is especially disheartening for those of us who believe in the power of a fully inclusive Jewish community that embraces every person as having equal and infinite merit," said Lynn Schusterman, chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. "We hope that by creating this equality index, we can advance a process whereby LGBT Jews will be more welcomed and protected in the workplace and in Jewish community organizations, which will, in turn, create a more open, vibrant and diverse Jewish community."

Last year Lynn Schusterman issued a call for all Jewish organizations to join her family's foundation in adopting non-discrimination hiring policies that specifically mention sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Put into context, today, anyone can be fired for their sexual orientation in 29 states, or for their gender identity or expression in 38 states. Although lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have enjoyed increased protections among the largest employers and in certain states over the last decade, the vast majority of LGBT employees remain unprotected. Information on current practices at nonprofits is largely unavailable and likely to reveal a strong need for education in workplaces on the organizational benefits that flow from treating LGBT employees fairly. This project will serve as a pilot to expand workplace equality into other non-profits and small employers of all sorts.

The initial goals of the work include assessing existing practices and highlighting areas for education. The HRC Foundation will develop and administer a survey, benchmark results against selected criteria for LGBT workplace inclusiveness and publish a report based on a review of approximately 300 organizations. The work will also include an assessment of organizations' cultural competency in delivering services to the LGBT community, such as whether the agency has inclusive language and messaging for LGBT clients, customers, students, campers, youth or parents. The initial report is scheduled for release in 2012.

"We strongly believe in the Jewish value of b'tzelem elohim that every person in the world is created in the image of the Divine. Individuals should have the right - and the ability - to live their lives so that sexual identity does not present any impediment to either obtaining or maintaining employment," said Susie and Michael Gelman, managing directors of The Morningstar Foundation. "The talented individuals who devote their professional lives to serving the Jewish community should be able to rely on Jewish organizations upholding this fundamental Jewish precept. We look forward to working with our partners to create positive change around this issue."

"As a longtime supporter of the work of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, I know its advocacy for inclusive workplace practices for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has been a key driver of change in social justice for our community," said Stuart S. Kurlander. "The organizations involved see a partner in HRC who can not only help bring change within the Jewish non-profit community but also advance the dialogue in this country on equality for all people."

About the Human Rights Campagin

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

About the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is dedicated to ensuring vibrant Jewish life by empowering young Jews to embrace the joy of Judaism, build inclusive Jewish communities, support the State of Israel and repair the world. Established in 1987 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Foundation also provides assistance to non-sectarian charitable organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in our hometown, especially in the areas of education, child advocacy and youth development.

About the Morningstar Foundation

The Morningstar Foundation is a family foundation which awards grants to pre-selected organizations dedicated to strengthening the Jewish community in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world, enhancing educational opportunities for inner-city youth, protecting the environment, and safeguarding civil liberties.

About Stuart Kurlander

Stuart S. Kurlander has a long history of involvement in the Jewish community. He is currently Vice President for Financial Resource Development, member of the Executive Committee and a member of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the United Jewish Endowment Fund. Mr. Kurlander is National Board Chair of Keshet. He is the Founder and Chair of the Kurlander Program on Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center, the first program of its type at a Jewish Community Center. He was National Chair of the first UJC LGBT Pride Mission to Israel in 2005. Professionally, Mr. Kurlander is a Washington, DC Partner of the international law firm, Latham & Watkins, LLP.

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